Monday, January 4, 2010

Still Alice

Gary's father, George, left his home early one morning for a dental appointment. The dentist's office called to say he never showed up. Eight hours later George arrived back home and couldn't remember where he had been all day. George said he knew he was supposed to be somewhere but couldn't remember where. George voluntarily gave up driving that day, he was 87 years of age.

My grandmother's memory started to fail her when she was 98, but a memory loss at that age was expected. She was still able to take care of herself and if she tried real hard she would eventually remember what she had temporarily forgotten. Gary's grandmother never forgot a thing, the day she died at 97 she was sharp as a tack as they say.

The first time I was confronted with Alzheimer's I was only 20. My boyfriend and I were visiting his grandfather. While my boyfriend was in the restroom, his grandfather leaned over to me and said, "That's a nice young man you're with, what's his name?" At first I thought he was kidding, then I realized he wasn't. He didn't remember who his own grandson was. Later I told my boyfriend what happened and he said his mother was trying to get his grandfather to stop driving to no avail.

After the missed dental appointment, Gary and I became closely involved in George's life. A short time later, George came to live with us and we cared for him till he passed away at 94. George had Dementia from small strokes in his brain. With a diagnosis of Dementia George's mind did not deteriorate as quickly as those with Alzheimer's, but this disease is just as challenging.

Having run out of clay and library books, quite by accident I picked up Still Alice at the grocery store yesterday. One way or the other Alzheimer's or Dementia will touch your life in some way if it hasn't already. Jeff Martin talks a little about this disease in his blog post today. Jeff's heading in a new clay direction and has some wonderful surfaces on his platters. Anyway, I highly recommend reading this book, even in retrospect, it has helped me. Comments and questions are welcome.


  1. On the Road AGAIN..>Drive careful and good luck finding your new home!

  2. Linda,
    This one is so close to home for us.
    We are going through this with Mark's mother just as we did with her father.
    I was 20 something and just married when I met Mark's grandfather. I sat with him out under a florida night with lot's of star's shinning bright and listen as he told me about his first wife, his days on the Indian reservation, his childern and so on.
    It was a gift to me as he would never talk about those things again.
    I would know him less then a year before he passed away.
    We were new to him every time we walked through the door.
    Now with his mother, she at least knows who we still are.
    How lucky for you to have had George.

  3. I lived through this with my stepfather. It was so hard on my mother. It is a very sad thing.

  4. Yep, we are dealing with it too, with Gerry's mom, although I think a lot of it has to do with the ridiculous amount of prescription drugs she takes. She sent me an email thanking me for all kinds of Christmas gifts and I have no idea what she is talking about. I have seen that book, I'll have to give it a read!

  5. Hi Mary, thanks, very soon now, very soon.

    Hi Meredith, thanks we learned so much about George's life in those last years than we ever would have , totally amazing stuff.

    Hi Tinkerfeet, thanks, yes very hard to see a loved one deteriorate espcially when they have taken care of themselves all their life.

    Hi Tracey, thanks, when George came to live with us he was on a ton of meds, after I few years I had him weaned off of all - yes all of them, he didn't need them - just needed better nutrition. Don't get me started on the drugs that are over prescribed and taken nowadays. The email does say more than the drugs though. Hang in there, it's a good book and quick and easy to read.

  6. Happy New Year Linda!

  7. Alzheimers is such a painful disease that seems to rob someone's soul long before it takes their body. When I was in my mid to late twenties and Matt & I were trying unsucessfully and heart-rendingly to get pregnant, Matt's grandmother cheered us on & was so supportive. A few years later when a miracle happened and I was pregnant, Alzheimer's had already started to take Matt's grandma to the point where she never had the chance to know that what she had prayed for on our behalf had happened. When Q was born, she had lapsed into unpredictable, violent fits completely uncharacteristic of who this gentle woman truly was - and I couldn't trust her to hold the great grandchild she had so wanted. It was heartbreaking, and I wish I had known more at the time for how to cope and help both Matt and his family with the pain and loss. I will check out the book Still Alice...thanks for recommending it.

    Thank you also, Linda, for your visits to my blog and your always kind and supportive words.

  8. have dealt with a bit in the past and it's a terrible thing... can't imagine anything worse than not remembering my child or a relative not remembering me.

  9. This is such a dreadful disease for the loved ones. When I worked after retirement as a toll collector in Florida, we often had people come up to our booths not knowing where they were or why they were there. We would have them pull off in the parking lot and call the FHP who would get them back to their family.
    Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond portrayed the fear so well.
    I will check the book out. Thanks.

  10. Another good post Linda. Our grandfather had Alzheimer's and died after some complications. He was alway so bright and intelligent (pilot, business owner, academic etc.) At a family wedding in Florida, we thought he was joking when he was telling my sister and I a plan to drive his car into the ocean, then we walked into the apartment he shared with his girlfriend -there were yellow post-it notes EVERYWHERE. They both had been hiding his "memory issues" for a year or so. He finally became dangerous to himself and had to be put in a safe and secure facility before he passed away. Fortunately, he was not really aware of the facility or the changes that overtook his being.

  11. Hi Amy, happy new year to you too.

    Hi Julia, thanks, I learned so much taking care of my father-in-law and this book was good for me to read because it was written from the point of view of the person with the disease. I always wondered how George felt. At first I knew he knew he was loosing his memory and then later he didn't realize it as much, thankfully for him, but he always trusted Gary and I and somehow knew we meant good for him, that's what this book brings out, even though the memory has failed, the feelings are still there. I'm so glad to read your forthright blog and so glad we can share with one another the ups and downs of life and living.

    Hi Jim, thanks I always felt bad for George, but this book pointed out to me that he wasn't suffering the kind of anquish about his memory loss the way I thought he was which has been helpful for me.

    Hi Patti, thanks, I need to get the video and watch On Golden Pond again. I loved that movie but saw it so long ago I've forgotten some of the important points.

    Hi Cindy, thanks, in the book Alice planned to take sleeping pills, and ... well in case you haven't read the book I won't tell the rest. A sad disease and now I see perhaps much more sad for those seeing the disease and left behind than those with the disease.


I love suggestions, questions, critiques, thanks for your comment